How can we see Jesus as an economic teacher who can instruct us in our contemporary thought and practice? In one of our most popular Economic Wisdom Project Talks, Joshua Jipp of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School reflects on his grandfather’s creative, unassuming and faithful modeling of the economic ethics of the kingdom of God. Jipp describes in moving detail how his Grandpa Wayne, a humble Iowa farmer, lived out Jesus’ economic teachings in practical, tangible and embodied ways within his local community. What enabled this local farmer to grasp such a vision for his vocation? Grandpa Wayne understood the fundamental truth that “work was best when it allowed him to contribute to the good of the community and to share his resources with others.”
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Jipp sheds light on how Jesus’ ministry was intimately tied to an agrarian context similar to Grandpa Wayne’s. In his storytelling, Jesus chose to employ mundane images of seed, soil and land to illuminate eternal spiritual truths. While this agrarian context provided little more than subsistence for the majority of Palestine’s residents, it gave much wealth to the elite few who enjoyed the privilege of hoarding resources. Jesus’ parables reveal that he “was a man who thought carefully about the economic systems and arrangements of his own day,” and in light of this, Jipp proposes that “as disciples of Jesus, our economic behaviors and values ought to be shaped by our master.”
Grandpa Wayne’s life of faithful vocation in his Iowa farming community embodied three primary thrusts of Jesus’ economic wisdom, which Jipp describes as pursuing “contentment over consumption, productivity over extraction, and community over isolation.”
Jipp points to the parable about the wealthy landowner who filled his storehouses and hoarded his wealth, refusing to generously share with his neighbors. Jesus demonstrated how “greed tricks us into thinking that life about consumption…that life is about what we own and what we possess.” But “the early church sought to pursue Jesus’ example of contentment over consumption.”
Moreover, Jesus invited his disciples to model an economic wisdom that valued productivity over extraction. “The Bible calls us to forego the extraction of [wealth from] other people so that others can experience the thriving God intends for them.” This will necessarily position Christians in opposition to prevailing political, economic and cultural systems, which all too often view people as commodities to exploit rather than as individuals to generatively co-labor with and for. Thus, “we are called to pursue justice and dignity for all people in our communities, challenging unjust economic and societal arrangements that prevent people from experiencing true flourishing.”
In addition to resting in contentment over cycles of consumption and embracing productivity over extraction, Jesus’ economic wisdom led his disciples to pursue community over isolation. Jesus equipped his followers “to see and to care about the real needs of [their] neighbor or [their] community.” Grandpa Wayne modeled this, understanding that “his wellbeing was wrapped up in and interconnected with the good of his neighbor.” Because of this, “withholding resources from the neighbor was simply unthinkable.” Even now, within the community of believers, there are incredible needs. Jipp reminds us, “there are orphans and widows, there are single mothers struggling to make ends meet, under-resourced schools and children who suffer as a result.” As Grandpa Wayne did, disciples of Jesus can experience the joy of community over isolation when it stewards its possessions for the good of the community.
This EWP Talk with Joshua Jipp will serve as an invaluable reminder to your students that Jesus teaches us in every area of life. By embracing contentment over consumption, productivity over extraction, and community over isolation, disciples of Jesus can shape their vocations along the lines of his economic wisdom.
We invite you to explore our library of EWP talks on our brand new EWP website. The talks have been conveniently categorized by topic to help you find the appropriate resources for your unique classroom conversation. We hope you will consider assigning this and other talks to your students in the coming semester!
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